Object of the Month – October 2019

October 21st is Reptile Awareness Day. With this in mind our Object of the Month is this weird looking Rhynchosaur Skull fossil.

An image of a rhynchosaur skull fossil that is the object of the month at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Rhynchosaur Skull fossil

Rhynchosaurs, now extinct, were a kind of beaked lizard type reptile which were common 220 million years ago during the middle Triassic Period. They made up an important part of terrestrial faunas before the rise of plant eating dinosaurs near the end of the Triassic. They were about half a meter long and had a narrow, wedge-shaped skull with a few small, blunt teeth and a beak which they used to munch on rough vegetation such as ferns and horsetails.

An image of a rhynchosaur model that is on display in the Geology section at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Model of how the rhynchosaur might have looked

This rhynchosaur skull fossil is from Grinshill, north of Shrewsbury. Back in the Triassic period this area of Shropshire was a hot desert on a lake margin. The rocks laid down were sand, silt and mudstones. In the late 1700s the sandstone from Grinshill began to be quarried for use in the construction of buildings in the county. This quarrying process uncovered various Triassic plant and animal fossils, including those of rhynchosaurs. Luckily, a member of the Shrewsbury Natural History Society kept a look out for these fossils during the quarrying, and many of the finds made there way eventually into the collection of Shrewsbury Museum in the 1800’s.

This particular specimen is scientifically important because it has been selected as a lectotype for the species. This means that it is the specimen with which other specimens are compared in order to name them as this species. As such, study of this specimen is ongoing. In fact, this spring it was taken for micro-CT scanning in Bristol, so researchers could study the braincase anatomy in more detail. Explore a 3D image of the rhynchosaur skull created by the Fossils in Shropshire project.

An image of the reverse side of the rhynchosaur fossil which is the object of the month at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Rhynchosaur Skull fossil reverse

There are more rhynchosaur fossils on display in the geology gallery at SM&AG, and many reptile specimens in Shropshire Museums’ collections including turtle shells and a snake preserved in alcohol.

Object of the Month is on display in the Visitor Information Centre and features on our social media feeds: